I’m about 2 weeks from starting work again. That means my recovery is going very well. I don’t know if we got all the cancer yet, although I am very optimistic. I have a feeling of accomplishment – I have been through hell and back. Much of it has been put into my blog posts – the posts you have all read. Still, there are a lot of memories over the past few months that haven’t made it into my blog. They are mostly “still shot” memories of a moment in time. I figured I would take a few of the most powerful ones and list them as bullet points here.
- Waking up post head and neck surgery to find myself stripped to the waist with no blanket on me. Upon seeing my puzzled look, the nurse told me that when I was coming out of anesthesia I insisted I was hot and practically made them strip me. I have no memory of this.
- Having to sleep for 3 weeks following surgery in a recliner because the blood and mucus drainage was so bad, and the pain in my neck was so acute that I couldn’t lie flat. I would choke on my bloody mucus and didn’t have the strength to sit up again once I was horizontal.
- Having throat pain so bad that even breathing made me want to cry.
- Falling asleep in the hospital room and waking to a soft and gentle touch on my arm. Slowly opening my eyes and pretending not to notice Carey wipe the tears from her eyes.
- Lying in bed before surgery, when the cancer was still big in my neck, and listening to Carey sleep as I spiraled around the fact that I had cancer – all night long.
- The look on my youngest son’s face as he saw me for the first time after surgery. I watched some of his innocence get stripped from him – his Dad was not invulnerable. It took everything I had to not cry at the sight.
- Thinking that I was strong enough to endure surgery, chemo, and radiation without missing more than a minimal amount of work. Such arrogance. Such ignorance.
- Stepping on the scale and watching 5 more pound drop from the tally. 200 – 195 – 188 – 182 – 175 – 170 – 165 – 160 – 155 – 158. . . (which is where I am now). Feeling initially proud – I needed to lose the weight – then more and more concerned as I realized that I was not able to gain weight and that I had no reserves left to be able to handle another bout of chemo or radiation if it was necessary.
- Looking at myself in the mirror for the first time after surgery and seeing the angry red scar on my neck and seeing the deformation in my neck from the muscles removed. Feeling shock at not recognizing who was staring back at me but acting like I was OK with it so I would not alarm Carey and the children.
- Slowly losing the ability to taste and pretending like I was OK with it. Again, I didn’t want to alarm anyone with how this affected me emotionally – but it bothered me greatly.
- Losing my saliva and not being able to kiss. My heart broke when I realized this. I can kiss again now, but for some time I was unable to do more than simple pecks on the lips.
- Feeling disgust at my weakness. Shame. We moved from a small 3/1 to a 4/2 in the middle of chemo and radiation and I was completely unable to help. At all. I had to sit and watch everyone else pack, clean, move, and unpack my belongings. It was nearly unbearable.
- The countless number of times Carey smiled at me and nursed me back to health – both physically and emotionally. She never, not once, left my side or expressed any frustration. The complete selflessness and dedication gave me more strength than I can possibly tell you. She made me realize, over and over again, what kind of person I wanted to be.
- The laughter of my kids. Even though they saw me at my weakest – they never really understood how serious my situation was. They still don’t understand. They think I am some kind of superhero. I am proud of myself for only ever showing them my optimistic and strong side. They never, not once, saw my doubt and insecurity about what was going on on my life.
- My happiness at receiving flowers and a gift basket from the office after my surgery. Along with my happiness at the cards and gifts my family and friends got me -wishing me well.
- Being cranky when I was admitted to the hospital and not letting anyone come visit me. Not even family. For 4 days, only Carey was by my side. Constantly – again, she never left my side or uttered a negative word. Not once.
- The pride I felt at walking a mile as recovery commenced, followed by my frustration as I paid for it by crashing for two days afterward.
I could go on forever. I have so many memories of the past 5 months. I may compile them chronologically at some point and take my cancer blog and publish it online for other cancer patients to see.
The one thing I have learned through all of this is the depth of love my beautiful fiance has for me, people. I have learned so much about myself and my family as well – but Carey is the most striking thing in all of this.
Complete and utter selflessness is a rare thing – even among people who are in love. She gave EVERYTHING of herself for me – the point of neglecting herself. She is so strong, so wonderful, so magical. I don’t know how I would have made it without her – she gave me the will to keep fighting. She showed me what strength truly is – and I could do no less because she looked at me with such love, trust, and devotion.
She saw me as a fighter – and so I became one. Better than I ever was before.
ahhh – time to stop. Anyway – those are some of my “Still shot” memories over the past few months.